Samuel T. Coleridge rightly observed eons ago that "truth is a good dog; but beware of barking too close to the heels of an error, lest you get your brains kicked out."

Conscious of that peril, I say, "Bow wow!"

The paper trail begins on Sept. 14 when The Post, responding to the Democrats' new "class struggle" strategy, reported on the budget negotiations: "GOP's Tax Proposal Said to Favor Wealthy." The headline was on the mark. The Republican proposal to reduce the capital gains tax indeed would benefit the wealthy more than the poor. But, otherwise, the story was mushy and misleading to all but the clairvoyant.

It said the Republicans planned to soak the poor and near-poor, raising their taxes (in unspecified ways) by $4.1 billion. The Democrats, on the other hand, would cut the taxes of the poor and near-poor by $7.5 billion (in unspecified ways) while raising income taxes by $27 billion over five years on people earning $20,000 or more. They would also soak the rich with a surtax and luxury taxes on expensive cars, boats, jewelry and so on.

The Republicans cried foul the next day: "There is a deliberate effort by some on the other side," Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole declared, "to cast this as a Republicans for the rich and they {Democrats} are for everybody else."

The Post reported his statement without referring to its own story and since then has not clarified its Sept. 14 report. But The Wall Street Journal has helped us out on that. The Republican plan to "soak the poor" apparently referred to proposals by both parties to enact "sin taxes" on tobacco and booze, which would apply to rich and poor alike but in a regressive pattern. The luxury taxes described by The Post as a Democratic proposal were, in fact, supported by both sides, with minor differences: the tax on high-priced cars would kick in at $25,000 under the Democratic plan and at $30,000 under the Republican; the tax on yachts would kick in at $30,000 under the Republican plan and at $50,000 under the Democrats. The surtax on the wealthy ($200,000 a year or more) was strictly a Democratic idea. But the Republicans had a "soak the rich" proposal of their own: a cap of $10,000 on the deductibility of state and local income taxes, an idea not popular with Democrats. Within the past few days, as The Journal (but not The Post) informed us on Wednesday, there is a new "soak the rich" plan, being pushed by the Republicans with some Democratic support: cancel or reduce for wealthy taxpayers the federal tax deductions for home-mortgage interest payments and charitable contributions.

The polls tells us that "soak-the-rich ballads," as The Journal puts it, will be popular with the electorate this fall. The job for the "media," The Post included, is to get the lyrics right.

There is another "bow wow" this week. It involves the matter of perspective. I wrote some months ago that The Post receives in the course of a year more than a half-million complaints about delivery and billing problems. And, by my estimate, complaints each year about the news and editorial content of the paper are likely to number in the several thousands. There is no complacency about these numbers that I am aware of but no panic either because of the huge volume of material that is printed and the number of newspapers distributed in the course of a year: more than 300 million.

The paper's Home section, in an article on housing inspection companies, noted correctly that one of the leading companies, HomePro, had been the subject of five complaints filed with the Montgomery County Consumer Affairs Office. What the story failed to note was that in the two-year period in which those complaints were made, the company had performed thousands of inspections in that county.

Finally, I can testify that Samuel Coleridge is right. I barked once too often about crowd estimates. In a column last May I said the Park Police estimate of the crowd at a pro-abortion rights rally in 1989 was 125,000. Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting, a New York organization that is the left-wing equivalent of the right-wing Accuracy in Media, charged me with a grievous error. It was compounded in some correspondence on the matter.

I now enter a guilty plea. The proper number, according to Park Police Lt. Hugh Irwin, was 200,000.

The crime was inadvertent, perhaps the result of an old injury: a kick in the head.